Somehow, I’d managed to live in California for two years without visiting the City by the Bay, or even the Bay Area, for that matter, so I jumped at the chance recently to take a weekend trip to San Francisco with friends.
A friend of mine from back home in Oregon mentioned once that San Francisco was a happy medium between Oregon and Southern California; palm trees and nightlife and great shopping, but a little more greenery and a lot less pollution. And it’s true; San Francisco is quite different from any other major West Coast City.
Right off the bat, it was immediately clear that the public transportation is far better than Los Angeles. It’s also sunnier (if not quite warmer) than Seattle, more urban than Portland, and even more expensive than L.A. (which I honestly wasn’t sure was possible.) But once I got past the $40 overnight parking, $6 soy lattes (at a Starbucks!) and sneaky city taxes and fees that seemingly get slapped onto every purchase, I was able to have a truly incredible weekend in San Francisco.
Now, I know many people who have left their hearts in San Francisco, so I don’t think I need to reiterate what’s already been said about all of the city’s virtues and must-see destinations. We ate bread bowls of chowder at the Fisherman’s Wharf, ventured to Ghirardelli Square for dessert, strolled around Union Square, took a trolley ride up and down the city hills, and paid a visit to the “Painted Ladies” of Full House fame. And of course, took countless tourist photos in front of the iconic the bridge.
Sure, at the end of the day, the Golden Gate Bridge is just a bridge, but there’s just something about it, I have to admit. We were able to catch a glimpse of it from both Fort Mason and Fort Point on two separate days, and I would honestly recommend both vantage points, though Fort Point offers you the most up-close-and-personal experience possible without actually driving over the bridge (which we didn’t do, as it runs north from the city and requires a toll to get back into San Francisco.)
As cliched as some of these destinations may be, I have to admit they’re time-tested for a reason; there isn’t a single activity we did in our three days in San Francisco that was the least bit underwhelming or disappointing. We really lucked out with beautiful weather, and nowhere we visited was excessively crowded, despite it being Memorial Day Weekend. There were, however, some highlights, which I highly suggest checking out for anyone planning a trip to SF anytime soon:
Alamo Square: Home to the Painted Ladies, come to get up close and personal with the Victorian town homes made famous in the opening credits of Full House, and stay for the breathtaking 360 degree views of the city, stunning architecture and gorgeous sunset (if you arrive in the evening, as we did.) Golden Hour here was absolutely awe-inspiring and so peaceful for such an urban environment, with sunlight peeking through the weeping willows, couples picnicking on blankets, dogs running around the park, and twilight slowly enveloping the San Francisco skyline.
Fort Point: You know those great pictures everyone takes right in front of the Golden Gate Bridge? This is where they come for them. You can stand literally right under the bridge, or you can hike a short trail lined with wildflowers to reach that perfect photo op with the bridge, hills and sparkling bay in the background. A short hike down from the bridge, you’ll also find biking paths, a pier, a beach, and recreation area for picnicking and barbecuing. Fort Point was colorful, scenic, and nothing short of an urban oasis.
Bi-Rite Creamery: Bi-Rite Creamery was suggested as a can’t-miss by a foodie friend, and for such a hole-in-the-wall ice cream shop, it certainly has a sizable and loyal fan base. The line was out the door when we arrived just before closing around 9:30 pm, and with its fresh, artisan ice cream, tasty baked goods, and friendly staff, it isn’t hard to see why Bi-Rite is a hit with tourists and locals alike.
Twin Peaks: Head down Market Street and away from the city center to reach the best view in San Francisco: Twin Peaks. Up here, you can see for miles and miles, all the way down Market Street, to the Golden Gate Bridge, and everywhere in between. It’s truly breathtaking at any time of day, and proved to be the perfect way to end such a scenic three day jaunt to the City by the Bay.
View more of my San Francisco photography over on my Flickr.